Wednesday, 4 October 2023

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Indonesian Police uncovers organ trafficking syndicate while investigating a human trafficking case

INDONESIA — The recent revelation of a human trafficking case has led the police to uncover an organ trafficking scheme.

A syndicate has been sending a number of Indonesian citizens abroad to have their kidneys harvested. The victims have been deprived of adequate medical care.

The Minister of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, explained the modus operandi of the syndicate in a statement at the Ministry of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs office in Jakarta on Tuesday (4 Jul).

“People are sent abroad, their kidneys are sold, and they are kept in various hospitals without receiving adequate care,” said Mahfud.

Currently, there are 14 Indonesian citizens detained in hospitals overseas for the illegal sale of their kidneys. These 14 individuals are believed to be victims of human trafficking.

However, Mahfud did not disclose the names of the hospitals or the countries where these victims of human trafficking (TPPO) are suspected to be located.

Mahfud explained that these individuals initially went abroad to work but upon arrival in their destination country, they were coerced into signing contracts to sell their kidneys.

“They were told they would work in restaurants or similar places, but upon arrival, they were forced to sign contracts to sell their kidneys,” Mahfud stated.

Regarding this issue, the Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, Bintang Puspayoga, stated that out of all the reported TPPO victims, the majority are children (50.97%), followed by women (46.14%) and men (2.89%).

Since 2019, there has been an increase in the number of reported TPPO victims. The number rose from 226 in 2019 to 422 victims in 2020 and 683 victims in 2021. Additionally, during the period from January to October 2022, 401 TPPO victims were reported.

Bintang expressed concern about the rising number of reported TPPO victims each year, emphasizing the need for joint efforts and strategies for the prevention and handling of TPPO.

She stated, “Moreover, with the emergence of new and increasingly complex modus operandi, the prevention and handling of TPPO must become our shared focus and urgency.”

The Diverse Nature of TPPO-related Crimes

According to police data, TPPO-related crimes encompass various types of offenses, including online scams, gambling, prostitution, ship crew members, and domestic workers, in addition to organ trafficking.

Mahfud mentioned that these individuals worked in various places but were not paid and were prevented from returning home due to contractual obligations.

Previously, the Indonesian National Police, in an official statement, disclosed that a joint team from the Jakarta Metropolitan Police and the Metro Bekasi Police had uncovered a TPPO case in the Bekasi regency.

The Metro Bekasi Police Chief, Police Commissioner General Benediktus Twedi Aditya Bennyahdi, stated that the perpetrators were suspected of harboring individuals for kidney trafficking.

“The investigation is being led by the Regional Police, with backup from the Bekasi Police, and it is still ongoing,” he said in a police press release published on June 20, 2023.

During the official statement by the Minister of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (Wakabareskrim) of the Indonesian National Police, Police Inspector General Asep Edi Suheri, was also present.

He mentioned that the case in Bekasi is still being developed.

“We are also enhancing cooperation with law enforcement agencies in foreign countries, including the Malaysian police, and possibly in the future, the General Crime Directorate will also collaborate with the Myanmar Police regarding the issue of organ trafficking, as mentioned by Minister Mahfud,” Asep said.

One month after President Joko Widodo appointed the Chief of the Indonesian National Police as the Chairman of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, efforts to suppress the operations of human trafficking syndicates are ongoing.

Demographic of the Human Trafficking Victims

As of 3 July, the Indonesian National Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, with the assistance of task forces in each regional police headquarters, has identified 698 suspects and rescued 1,943 victims across Indonesia.

“I express my appreciation to the Indonesian National Police, which has been quick and efficient. The police have received praise from various regions and local leaders. They have saved many victims and apprehended many criminals. I have received reports from various regions. The Indonesian National Police is doing an excellent job, and the Coordinating Agency for Migrant Workers Placement and Protection (BP2MI) has also been working very well,” said Mahfud.

Approximately 65.5% of the victims were migrant workers, 25.5% were involved in commercial sex work, 6.6% were exploited children, and 1.4% were ship crew members.

Deputy Chief of the Indonesian National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department, Police Inspector General Asep Edi Suheri, recounted an arrest operation conducted at Nunukan Port as an example.

The police successfully apprehended around 600 passengers from boats departing from various regions such as East Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi, and East Kalimantan.

“There were 233 victims who were rescued,” Asep said.

Regarding the alleged involvement of insiders, the Head of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI; Badan Perlindungan Pekerja Migran Indonesia), Benny Rhamdani, made an interesting revelation.

“We have received various data from the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK; Pusat Pelaporan dan Analisis Transaksi Keuangan), strongly indicating the involvement of one BP2MI employee. We are keeping the individual’s name confidential. They are suspected of receiving illegal funds from the illegal placement syndicate,” he stated during an official statement on Tuesday (4 Jul).

BP2MI has partnered with PPATK to investigate the flow of funds from human trafficking syndicates.

Several names have been submitted by BP2MI for tracing their financial transactions, as they are suspected of involvement in TPPO crimes. Surprisingly, it has been discovered that one BP2MI employee is among the list of recipients of illicit funds.

“Tomorrow, we will summon the individual and conduct a thorough investigation. I am confident that we will impose severe sanctions, including dismissal. We are serious and not taking this matter lightly,” Benny emphasized.

Government’s Focus on Prevention and Future Interventions

In an effort to handle and prevent Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of Organ Removal (TPPO), the government of Indonesia has enacted Law Number 21 of 2007 on the Eradication of Trafficking in Persons. This law aims to address the growing issue of TPPO and ensure the protection of victims.

To implement the TPPO Law, several binding regulations have been issued, including:

  1. Government Regulation Number 9 of 2008 on Procedures and Mechanisms for Integrated Services for Witnesses and/or Victims of TPPO
  2. Presidential Regulation Number 22 of 2021 on Amendments to Presidential Regulation Number 69 of 2008 on the Task Force for the Prevention and Handling of TPPO
  3. Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Regulation Number 8 of 2021 on Standard Operational Procedures for Integrated Services for Witnesses and/or Victims of TPPO.

These regulations provide guidelines and procedures for comprehensive services and support to witnesses and victims of TPPO, ensuring their rights are protected and their needs are met.

However, the government’s approach goes beyond legal measures. They are also providing support and assistance to the victims.

Minister of Human Development and Culture Coordination, Muhadjir Effendy, emphasized the government’s commitment to addressing the broader social issues surrounding TPPO and Indonesian Migrant Workers (PMI; Pekerja Migran Indonesia).

“PMI issues are not only related to TPPO but also encompass larger social problems. All relevant ministries, especially the Ministry of Social Affairs, are involved in these efforts. Since PMI issues are primarily related to poverty, various social assistance programs are being implemented,” he added.

The government’s focus has primarily been on prevention by identifying the sources of TPPO victims and intervening to prevent trafficking.

However, Muhadjir acknowledged that in 2022, the government only recorded 173 TPPO cases due to a lack of focus. In just one month, the police have already managed to apprehend over 600 perpetrators and rescue nearly two thousand victims.

“This indicates that TPPO cases are just the tip of the iceberg. It is evident that within a month, thousands of victims have been uncovered,” Muhadjir added.

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